Location: Marlin Mine, Siete Platos, Guatemala
Recorded and translated by Lena Dorfschmidt and Justin Shenk
I am from here, from Siete Platos, My name is Andrés Jilote Pérez. I was born here. My father was from here, from Siete Platos […]. I am seventy years old. […]
All the years we have lived here we lived calmly. But later, when the mining company arrived, things changed. There are so many things resulting from there. Because earlier people lived calmly, poor, that’s true, we don’t have a lot of land and we don’t have many resources, as there is no work source here. And that’s why we are struggling for our properties, for our food. Corn is what we eat. There are the corncobs. We live from corn, beans and a sort of herbs. […] That is what we live on and we have lived calmly.
But nowadays, with the mining company… We are situated […] below the company. The company lives up there; up there is where it is making the trouble. Up there. My son went and they barely gave him any work. In the tunnel, he says, they have found several springs. But I don’t know, where they take that water, I don’t know. The water veins were destroyed. We have wells that have dried out. There is no spring here to drink from. Everyone has their own wells. Some together with other neighbors, but the majority of the community had their wells. There are wells that many people go to. They have an agreement. But now, many wells just dried out. […]
Here we are. That is how we are living here now. Because of the company so many things happened that are affecting us. Not only the water, but also problems between the communities. There are divisions between the communities, there are divisions, because there is a group of people – they are from here […] – that works in the company. […] They don’t want us to talk about the company, because they are earning their living from there. That is why they are in favor of the company. That’s the situation now. There is always division. We are not united. In that time, when there was no company yet, the people were united. But now there are divisions. There is a group apart from us. So there is no community.
And we also faced threats, […] because of defending our rights. The don’t want, well […] They don’t like what we are doing. Defending our rights, so that we can live calmly. So that there are no problems anymore.
That is what has been happening here.
And also […] up there, there is a spring that is contaminated and flows down here for the people to drink, all the people, to drink water. Not everyone has water, but there are people who say that this water is not for drinking, because […] people sent it for examination to a laboratory. They came to claim that there is certainly contamination. So we are worried about our water […]. The whole community that is here below the company could die. Those that live uphill, maybe not, but […] everything could get contaminated.
There is a spring over there and we are trying to get it here.
And is that water clean?
Well… that is what we are drinking now.
There was a problem here. There was a blocking. That is why. There is a group that revolted against us, they even threatened us. There is an agreement the company has about the water. This agreement was authorized by the Interamerican Commission, so the mayor didn’t want [the blocking] to happen. […]
We had seen that document already, we saw, we had in our hands already, that it was signed by the Interamerican Commission. We claimed that the company had to comply with it. They didn’t, so we did the blocking here. We did the blocking. The group that split apart does not want the blocking. They are in favor of the company.
That was about a year ago. Now everything is calming down a little. There were threats from our own community.
[The company] pledged itself to five communities. They were to provide running water in five communities. It is authorized already. The permission is there. […]
Maybe we will reach our goal, because we have been struggling. It is on its way.
The first time an authority in Guatemala allowed mining was [Alvaro] Arzú after the peace treaties of 1996. He was a president that represented the economically powerful class, the people that have power here in Guatemala. It was them who gave the permission here in Guatemala. The peace treaties after thirty-six years of war were being signed, but apart from that, the economically powerful class had their own project in the country. Below that project was, what is called the structural adjustment. That is what brings capitalism, the program of structural adjustment. It is not only about selling state-owned assets; it’s also about selling the state companies to private companies.
[…] But apart from that they also gave an impulse […] to what is known as free markets and the Pueblo-Panama Plan. To bring all that about […] structural adjustment was necessary. So with the structural adjustment came all the mega projects: mining, petroleum, monocultivation of the palm tree in this case […], the ports that are being built now. But all that was for economic growth, not for economic development. These two are completely different.
Everything was a deceit. For example, up there, before 1996, fitting with the peace treaties, the companies arrived. The Francisco Gol came […] studies on the possibilities of exploration, taking samples, studying stones, studying the soil. To do these studies they had to use a strategy of cheating. For example they said they were doing a mega project to produce aluminum-roofing panels […], they were producing tools for farmers: mattocks, machetes… They were to produce all that up there. That is why they were doing the research. And they also said […] they were going to produce orchids, produce flowers and […] that this would generate a lot of work for the people. So the people said, “That’s good!” And then there was a mayor […] who gave the permission; he gave it, even asking for the cooperation of the community leaders. They were not to refuse; instead they were to accompany them. In 1996 the permission was given. In the time of Arzú. So the company came. They started to buy land. But no one knows about the issue of mining. No one, no one. No one, neither they, nor we knew. It wasn’t until 2003 when the Prensa Libre wrote about it that we got to know about the mining project. So we got to know about it and the movement against it started.
There was no consultation. Out of the 62 communities, 26 were consulted. But that was only when the mine was already working.
They… what they want are that the company fulfills the precautionary measurements. “Hopefully at least they give us that.” We can start many projects, but they will never give us anything.
We had communication with San Juan Sacatepéquez, El Estor, Izabal, Honduras where there is another gold mining project. We coordinated ourselves with Bastaltino in Peru. At some point we had communication with many people and they even came here to San Miguel […]. For example when we had the Tribunal de Salud en San Miguel. People from Mexico and nearly all Central America came to participate in the Tribunal de Salud.